Matt Heyden and Allisia Westrich cut a rug at the 1940’s WWII Ball at the Boulder Airport last year.
Matt Heyden and Allisia Westrich cut a rug at the 1940's WWII Ball at the Boulder Airport last year. ( Jonathan Castner )
If you go

What 1940s WWII Ball.

When 7 p.m. June 19.

Where Boulder Municipal Airport, 3393 Airport Road, Boulder, in the blue hangar.

Cost $25 in advance online or $30 at the door. Seniors older than 65 and Veterans of Foreign Wars get $5 off with ID. Children younger than 12 cost $15 in advance, $20 at the door. VIP tables available.

Attire '40s attire or military uniforms strongly encouraged.

Raises money for Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum (wingsmuseum.org), Spirit of Flight Center Colorado in Erie (spiritofflight.com), and the Ninety Nines International Organization of Women Pilots (ninety-nines.org).

More info 1940swwiiball.org, info@1940sWWIIBall.org, 303-946-9227.

At 10:30 p.m., Khyentse James stopped and looked around the airport hangar.

It had rained earlier in the day, spreading a magical dark blue glow across the sky. On one side: the silhouette of the Flatirons absorbing the falling sun. On the other side: World War II-era planes crouched over a 13-piece big band, victory bells and a dance floor bouncing under stage lights.


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"You felt like you were stepping into a movie set," says James, of Longmont. "You hear '40s music in the background. Everyone's dressed up. I took a breath and began to dance and listen."

James, the creative director of the 1940s World War II Ball, had been racing around the Boulder Airport all night, what with the planned attendance of 200 growing to 600 actual arrivals.

That was last year. It was supposed to be a one-time fundraiser to bring the Decibelle Music and Culture Festival to Colorado. The event raised $4,000 net.

In one year, the ball has become much more. This year's fundraiser is Saturday, June 19, at the Boulder Airport. Organizers hope to make this an annual party.

First, the attendees. James doesn't know how many people to expect this year, but she's moved into a hangar more than twice as big. Last year, five people helped set up. This year, an organizational team of a dozen, plus about 100 volunteers, will be setting up for four days.

They have to set up the lighting, tents, move airplanes around, build the stage and aerial flyers apparatus, tiki tent, Tango Tango Club lounge, food and bar.

Oh, and drive in the WWII tank.

"It's being taken to a new level this year," James says.

She doesn't know where to start. So, from the ground up:

Imagine cigarette girls carrying trays of "rations" (food), women sporting victory rolls and vintage dresses, people in military uniforms, brooches and suspenders and top hats and vests.

The Boulder Swing Dance club will shake the dance floor. (Come early for free swing lessons.) Walk through Hollywood's TBM Avenger plane. Organizers will honor WWII vets, including Boulder resident Bill Bower, one of the last surviving "Doolittle Raiders." The Raiders flew B-25 Mitchell bombers over Tokyo with the assumption it was a death mission. Bower survived.

He will be at the event if his health allows. A picture of him in front of his plane will grace the wall. So will projected 1940s movies.

Left to right, Kurt Reisser, Dorothy Vernon, Susan Reisser and Dan Emich, as George Patton, at the 1940’s Ball last year.
Left to right, Kurt Reisser, Dorothy Vernon, Susan Reisser and Dan Emich, as George Patton, at the 1940's Ball last year. ( Jonathan Castner )

Burlesque dancers and tribute performers will fill the stage, along with big-name headliner, the Hot Tomatoes, a nine-piece band that has played with Tony Bennett, The Temptations, Benny Goodman, Bob Hope, Sammy Davis Jr. and more.

"They are quite a big deal," James says. "They are the best in the area."

And that's just what's on the ground.

In the air, aerial flyers from Frequent Flyers will perform on an airplane propeller, and aerialist Brandy Dew will perform a Spanish web dance in the sky to swing music.

Also in the air: WWII radio announcements -- including the proclamation of the end of the war to wrap up the night. Balloons will drop from the ceiling, and the celebration will culminate with a mass conga line on the dance floor.

Derek Evilsizor will play the part of Frank Sinatra at the 1940’s Ball, as he is doing in this photo from the Boulder Creek Festival.
Derek Evilsizor will play the part of Frank Sinatra at the 1940's Ball, as he is doing in this photo from the Boulder Creek Festival. ( CLIFF GRASSMICK )

Skydivers with giant American flags will leap from a WWII trainer plane. Another old plane will drop off performers, including people who look and sound like Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, Bob Hope and the Andrews Sisters.

Marnie Ward, of Denver, is a member of the three-woman Andrews Sisters tribute act, Reveille 3. She attended last year's ball.

"It was very multidimensional. Not just entertaining, but an event you can be a part of," Ward says. "It really made you feel like you were in the '40s at a dance."

She adds, "And this year will be 10 times better."

'A bigger, better event'

Part of the explosion comes from a new partnership with the owner of Boulder Creek Events, Chris Daily. He attended the party last year with his son, to check out the old airplanes.

"I was really impressed with the idea, the concept that no one's really doing," Daily says. "We decided to work together and use the resources to make it a bigger, better event."

Among Daily's flagship events: the Boulder Creek Festival. With him on board, the WWII ball secured a promotional tent at last weekend's festival and drew crowds around its spokesman, Derek Evilsizor, the Frank Sinatra tribute performer.

Evilsizor, of Broomfield, has been making a living traveling the world in Sinatra's memory for eight years.

"I put on a suit and I happen to look like Frank," Evilsizor says. "I don't try to impersonate him, but I do what he might have done in my shoes at this time."

He says he's excited for the "old planes and grandkids and grandpas and veterans" -- Evilsizor is a veteran himself -- as well as a "hot day with hot dogs and music."

As for what to wear, he suggests black and white.

"When you look at the pictures, everyone was wearing only black and white back then," he says with a laugh.

Contact Staff Writer Aimee Heckel at 303-473-1359 or heckela@dailycamera.com.